The chance to win the America’s Cup again for San Francisco-based Oracle Team USA proved to be a stronger allure for Tom Slingsby than sailing for his native Australia.
Slingsby confirmed Thursday that he has re-signed with Oracle Team USA, the first big development in the buildup to the next regatta.
As strategist, the Olympic gold medalist was part of the brain trust in the back of the boat that helped lead one of the greatest comebacks in sports when Oracle won eight straight races against Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay in September to retain the silver trophy.
In a phone interview from his home north of Sydney, Slingsby said he was contacted by several teams, including a challenger from his home country, about sailing in the 35th America’s Cup. But he said Oracle Team USA “came to me with a really good offer and said I’m going to play a big part in the Cup. I had a good experience with Oracle last time and I’m happy to stay there.”
As one of the top young sailors in the America’s Cup, Slingsby, 29, is expected to play a bigger role for Oracle in the next regatta, serving as tactician and backup helmsman. He’ll replace Ben Ainslie, an Olympic star who is trying to launch a British challenge.
The combination of three of the world’s most intensely competitive sailors — skipper Jimmy Spithill, Ainslie and Slingsby — helped Oracle rally from an 8-1 deficit against the Kiwis to win 9-8. Ainslie and Slingsby helped guide Spithill — also an Australian — around the course. Slingsby fed information to Ainslie, who called the tactics.
Slingsby will slide into Ainslie’s role, which also included helming the backup boat in practice.
“At this stage of my career, I really do need to go with the team that provides me the best opportunity,” Slingsby said. “Ten years down the track, I want to be a four-time winner of the America’s Cup, or a three-time winner of the America’s Cup. At the moment we’re signing with the biggest, strongest team with the best record at the moment. And for me to go with a new team that doesn’t have any runs on the board because it’s new to the America’s Cup scene, at this stage it’s too much of a risk. One day I’d love to be part of an Australian America’s Cup team. Once they do a campaign and learn everything, next time might be a more interesting offer.”
Slingsby said he felt “a lot of very small things” helped Oracle rally to keep the oldest trophy in international sports. He said the Kiwis “found their setup and stayed in that setup” while Oracle tried new things every day.
As defender, Oracle Team USA gets to pick the venue for the 35th America’s Cup and help set the rules. Syndicate CEO Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner, said Oracle Team USA would like the regatta to return to San Francisco and will hold further meetings with city officials next week.
Slingsby said he’s heard that the next America’s Cup match could be held in August 2017, but a final date hasn’t been set. Organizers must also decide if they’ll sail the next regatta in 72-foot catamarans or go to a smaller boat. Coutts said organizers want to cut costs so that more teams can participate.
Slingsby won the gold medal in the Laser class at the 2012 Olympics. He hasn’t ruled out a run at the 2016 Olympics, but is putting his campaign on hold for a while to focus on the America’s Cup.